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Thirty Days of Druidry 24: Playing the Druid Card   1 comment

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Could I be the Mage,
or might I be the Fool?
Should we learn to use our cards
like any kitchen tool?

When I search for wisdom,
when I peruse old lore,
do I seek just kicks and tricks
or something worth much more?

Is my quest a question,
things I already know,
or an “undiscovered country”
I rediscover as I grow?

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If “playing the _____ – card” means to take (unfair) advantage of some given of our identities, what might it mean to play the Druid card? Well, it certainly gains us nothing with either the gods or local land spirits.

Druid-card Holder (DCH): “Hey! I’m a Druid!”

Land Wight (LW): “Welcome. Have you listened to the land, spent time hearing what it has to teach, growing a portion of your own food on it, and feeling how each season and its energies shape the lives of all the creatures on it, including you? Have you, in four words, lived where you live?”

DCH: Well, no …

LW: Go away and do not return until you learn reverence.

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“I invoke you, goddess, for a change.”

Let me try again. If I live where I’ve lived, rather than almost anywhere else, I accept the gift of responsibility. Usually the word sounds heavy — something people try to flee rather than to welcome. But let me do my Bard word trick once more. I know I’ve often walked away from my response-ability, my ability to respond. I turn it off, drown it out, change channels, either because it’s painful or too demanding or or or. Third time’s the charm: find three or’s and I can successfully escape my ability to respond and maybe spend my whole life in someone else’s dream rather than one of my own. Success!

I often explore my own “weaknesses” because I find I learn more from them than from my strengths. (“Could that be one of their uses?! Hmm.”) We’re so accustomed to others being down on themselves that you may hear this as more of the same. No. I gain strength and insight from such cool, steady gaze. Don’t misunderstand. I’m as good at denial, deflection and depression as the next fellow. A 3-D life! A modern Western triad!

But what I want to get better at are the finely-tuned opportunities my weaknesses constantly point me toward. Lack something, and I sensitize myself to it everywhere around me. My lack magically energizes the thing to keep knocking at the door of my life. But rather than turning to my ability to respond, my responsibility, I do everything to reject the thing I said I wanted. But no worries, mate: it doesn’t actually vanish. It will keep knocking until I let it in. “Ask (I keep asking all the time) and it will be given to you; seek (we never really give up seeking, just take breaks for a day or a decade) and you will find; knock (oh, how it will knock back, friend!) and the door will be opened to you.”*

Bala_Lake2

Bala Lake in Wales, where Gwion Bach begins his adventure of transformation

More and more it seems that rather than missed opportunities, there are only ones I keep rejecting. If I really do “miss” one, it will re-group and when necessary take another form in order to reappear down the road and insert itself into my life. Come around the next turn and — ah! There it is, possibly in a guise more difficult to ignore, less easy to escape at all.

My fate pursues me like yours does you, like Ceridwen pursues Gwion through all his transformations. I might even evade my fate for a life or two, come back in another body, gender, set of circumstances, with a “clean slate” so to speak. Except not really. My one life is with me, my responsibility sharpens, clarifies, till I can live it fully, because there’s nothing else I can do, even if I wanted to.

That’s one corner of my “Druid card” — at least, living where I’ve lived, as I understand it so far. What’s yours?

/|\ /|\ /|\

When I respond, link, connect, then I “beltane.” Let’s make it verb … Not to cheapen it, market it, no. To sanctify it. And you, my kin, my readers, when you last beltaned, what did you discover?

“Beltane is so much about the urge to connect, to blend and merge; to feel a part of something extraordinary; to at once lose one’s sense of self in that merging but also to paradoxically feel more absolutely and truly oneself because of it. In the desire to penetrate life’s mysteries, we need also to open ourselves to them, surrendering to the power of love that it may have the opportunity to transform us. Great things are born in us at such moments of union; this place of merging is where the tap root of our creativity feeds, without it we feel dry and disconnected. If that magical, alchemical moment of connection and merging were a colour, I suspect it might be perceived as many beautiful, vibrant shades but its foundation, I feel sure, would be the green of spring: ecstatically joyful – the irrepressible life and desire that leads us to love.” — Maria Ede-Weaving

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IMAGES: Ceridwen Centre logoBala Lake.

*Matthew 7:7 — an excellent Druidic number!

Updated 9 May 2016

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Thirty Days of Druidry 2: Targets for Humanness   Leave a comment

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mosses

“Microcosm” — Mike Fletcher photography

We look for things that will acknowledge and value and nurture the overflowing spirit that is our humanity at its best. We literally grow larger than one self in our relationships with other beings. This isn’t merely a lonely, impotent and mortal self desperately seeking an echo, a mirror, before the dark comes on, though that can be one part of it. Our curiosity and empathy mean we can feel ourselves into the oddest and most splendid corners of the universe. And then keep going even further. Because we can. But just as much because those corners are there, endlessly inviting. The cosmos beckons. “House made of dawn,” says the Navaho night chant, “house made of the evening twilight …”

Of course, other humans offer a ready first “target” for this quest. We fall in love, we bond, we befriend, we seek connection. What’s remarkable to me is not the number of times we face disappointment or disaster in our human relationships. You might almost expect that, given the universe around us where fish spawn and the majority perish before reaching adulthood. Nestlings don’t all make it. Flowers and trees cast thousands of potential offspring to earth and wind and water, and how many survive?

But the number of times things actually go well can astonish. Life, quite simply, abounds. It beats the odds. And even looking narrowly for a moment at just the human world, at friends, family, co-workers, allies, strangers who perform those random kindnesses — well, live among other humans and we can strike you as a varied and quarrelsome bunch at times, to be sure, but more remarkable still for wanting to connect, to be counted, to know and be known. And we talk endlessly about it all, thinking words will bring us together. Sometimes, surprisingly, they do.

And the natural world? Both womb and tomb, it still manages to be other enough that our super-enlarged brains have plenty to do to figure out whether we do or don’t really “belong.” Hence the need for wisdom, for something more than the givens of a human life: birth, food, sleep, learning, sex, work, play, illness, joy and death. Because to the question “Is that all there is?” the answer is almost always “No.” That “no” is so reliable, in fact, that things like Druidry provide marvelous tools for exploring the “all that is.” But if Druidry or Plan B doesn’t happen to work for you, by all means find (or make) something that does.

Zamyatin

Yevgeny Zamyatin

We can go and quite readily have gone to other people’s faiths and ideologies and isms that offer answers and creeds and dogmas. But we can also look, more provocatively and more productively, for great questions. As the Russian writer and philosopher Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937) remarked, “Dealing with answered questions is the privilege of brains constructed like a cow’s stomach, which, as we know, is built to digest cud.” Foolish questions are a risk along such a path, of course, but they are only “foolish to a civilized man who has a well-furnished European apartment with an excellent toilet and a well-furnished dogma.” Better a few foolish questions along with many more useful ones. And far better than no questions at all. Yes, that’s next door to a dogma in my book, if you want to know.

“In a storm,” Zamyatin observes, “you must have a man aloft. We are in the midst of storm today, and SOS signals come from every side.”* It’s no accident that new forms of spirituality sprang into existence over the last 50 years or so. From a Druid perspective, you might say, like a bird or bush moving into a new ecosystem, a niche opens and life explores it for fit, changing it or changing itself. Or both. A trust in the power of spirit to manifest new forms at need is one of the gifts of Druidry. And the lifelong learning to work with that spirit and those forms is a fitting Druidic quest.

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Image: “Microcosm” — Mike Fletcher photographyZamyatin.

*Zamyatin, Yevgeny. On Literature, Revolution, Entropy and Other Matters. 1923. The translations here appear in Ginsburg, Mirra, A Soviet Heretic : Essays by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1970).

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